Two Poems

Feast Day

There’s a patron saint for everything.
Nearly all the early ones
were martyred. The world has always been
this bloody. St. Justus was nine 
when he was reported 
as a Christian. Beheaded, he held 
his head in his hands. My grandmother
confessed, as doctrine willed it, weekly.
She was so good, and always right. 
What could she have confessed? She knew
the name for every kind of fork
and where to place each one
for the dinner party. The Devil 
was real perhaps but not to be
spoken of, God a disapproving uncle
you’d do your best not to disappoint.
Which saint could she have prayed to
when her first daughter, days old,
died for no reason? When she woke,
years later, from childbirth, with no womb
to bear more children? Impolite
to speak of the body and its openings
and its failures. At seventy and seventy-five
she spoke still of driving an elderly friend 
to the doctor, but by eighty she’d grown tired
of opening the paper each morning
to find the obituaries filled with names she knew. 
Each saint is feasted on their dies natalis, the birth
into the next life. It was my birthday
the day my grandmother died, and so now
we share the day with St. Liberata, St. Gwen,
and St. Luke, whose gospel is the only one
to tell the story of the Annunciation. The saints
can’t touch us, or else they’re ineffectual,
or unjust. Confession doesn’t count
if you say it only to yourself. The first daughter’s name
is my name. My grandmother wrote
her own obituary, and when the paper ran it
not one of us knew what the middle initial 
of the daughter who preceded her stood for.
There was no one left to ask. 



Naming The World

When he’s past a year, then 18 months and still not speaking, we begin 
     to teach the baby signs, 
          scooping the air in front of us for want, 
     circling a fist over our hearts for please. It’s more he uses most, 
gathering the fingers on each hand together, then touching the fingertips 
over and over and over. At meals we ask 
     more cheese, or more turkey? 
               more banana or more cracker? 
holding each item in the air so he can learn to choose, 
     trying to tie the sounds of words to the objects he wants. 
The signs go general and in excitement he signs 
more and more, more water in the bath, more blocks, more 
     milk, more dancing. Without a word to stitch it to, the sign’s sometimes 
hard to parse. Sometimes it seems it’s just a baby way of saying 
           joy. More dogs, more snow, more plastic t-rex stomping 
over train tracks. Sitting on the floor with the new baby kicking at my ribs, 
this wondrous not-quite baby smiling at his trains, 
     baby, yes, more of this. More of all of it. 


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